I had tried to be unemotional, but the gauntlet was thrown. “Come on now, this is not dumbing down horticulture, it is lifting it up. It makes us more accessible to people like Heather and her generation, making her experience in the retail store that much more comfortable. Baby boomers are looking to simplify—a couple of shrubs is now more in keeping with their lifestyle than a dozen perennials. They will be buying less, and we need to attract the Heathers of the world. We won’t do it by being holier-than-thou. Fortunately, landscapers today are buying more and more plants, but we should not expect them to know all the names. It would be nice, but it’s not going to happen.”
Essentially that was the gist of the friendly repartee on Long Island. It turns out my debating opponent worked at a public Arboretum and saw things in a little different light than we do.
It seems to me that we in the plant trade have many parallels with the computer industry. Everybody wants a computer that performs well, but if the people at Computer Doodle expected the people who walked into the store to know the difference between ROM and RAM, what a cache was, and how to change the resolution on their screen, well, they’d never make a sale. Instead they talk about speed, reliability and memory, words everyone is familiar with. The computer professionals know their buzzwords, but the computer industry long ago realized that if they were to attract new customers, they had to make the buying experience more friendly. So should we.
So when a gardener like Heather wants some plants for her garden, I hope that the industry people tell her about their lovely baskets of trailing petunias and how beautiful are the fan flowers. She will come back again and again.